Port Townsend Superintendent of Schools John Polk answers parents’ questions Thursday evening about the status of Salish Coast Elementary School. Also taking part in the discussion are, from left, Assistant Principal Shelby MacMeekin, Principal Lisa Condron and Kirk Robinson, project consultant. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend Superintendent of Schools John Polk answers parents’ questions Thursday evening about the status of Salish Coast Elementary School. Also taking part in the discussion are, from left, Assistant Principal Shelby MacMeekin, Principal Lisa Condron and Kirk Robinson, project consultant. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend school officials discuss late opening of elementary school

PORT TOWNSEND — School officials aimed to calm parents’s concerns over the delayed opening of Salish Coast Elementary School during a community meeting that was sparsely attended.

Superintendent John Polm, along with Principal Lisa Condron, Vice Principal Shelby MacMeeken, and Kirk Robinson, manager of the construction project, on Thursday night addressed specific topics relating to plans to begin school on Sept. 11, a week later than the first day of school for most schools in the district.

A labor strike by Local 302 of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Western Washington that began on Aug. 22 has put the project on hold and caused the district to make alternate plans for opening day.

“We applied for a waiver to the State Board of Education, requesting five days be waived,” Polm said. “It doesn’t mean that we don’t meet the minimum hours required for the school district. Our district meets those requirement because we have more instructional time than the minimum.

“If we are able to get the waiver, then we won’t make up the days. If for some reason we don’t, we will work with our local union to make a modification of the calendar.”

Polm said the district has been looking into help with child care for the next week.

“With regards to child care challenges, we have a response from the YMCA for some programming the week of [Sept. 4], and the library is extending some of their services during the day. Also we’ve done some outreach to area churches with no conclusions yet.”

Robinson said construction projects of this size typically go right to the wire.

“These types of projects have a short window of about 15 months to complete,” Robinson said. “We were on track, but the strike occurred and that slowed us down.

“It stopped us from completing some of our interior work, but dramatically affected the way the site looks from the outside. We are confident we are going to make the week of the 11th for the opening.

“We’re working closely with the city on safety. Believe me, we won’t going into that building if it is not approved by the city,” Robinson continued.

“The site looks ‘lumpy’ on the outside, but there will be exit ways and paths for the kids to use to get out of the building, to get to play areas. That’s still our most important thing — safety.”

After school begins and the strike ends, construction will not take place while classes are in session. Construction will run from 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“We don’t want noise,” Robinson said. “Construction workers will not be in the building while kids are there. Once the kids are off site, construction will return. We’ll also work to make sure the hours are not too late to disrupt the neighborhood.”

Condran said teachers are working through the interruption.

“What’s impressive is that we are all acting as a community,” she said. “Some of the rooms are ready to be set up, others aren’t. The teachers are all helping each other. We’ve also hired some movers to help to make the work go much more quickly.”

The district has created a transportation management plan and made a commitment with the city to encourage carpooling, walking, bicycling and riding the school bus.

There will be four crossing guard spots. They are at the bus pull-out on Discovery Road, in front of the school, at the Grant Street intersection that is one way, and at Sheridan and 17th Street.

District officials asked that parents be mindful of the neighborhood and if there is a traffic jam, to go around the block and wait until it clears. Parking spots are available on Grant and Discovery, as well as Sheridan.

More information on Salish Coast Elementary updates can be found at the school’s website at http://salishcoast.ptschools.org/ and on Facebook. Parents also will receive emails and automated telephone calls with updates.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]

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